From humble beginnings to head of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Geisha Williams serves as a prime example of the power a steady work ethic can provide. In an industry where women represent a fraction of the workforce, Geisha has achieved the position of CEO at one of the largest energy suppliers in the United States. But, according to her, the job wasn’t a position she had set her eyes on from a young age, or even as a working professional. And if all this weren’t surprising enough, she’s also set a world record as the first Latina CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
Geisha’s numerous accomplishments manage to share a perspective of the world that many today believe no longer exists: people are greatly affected by their ethnicity, culture, and personal heritage. It’s not a coincidence that the first Latina CEO of a Fortune 500 company was only named just this past year. While this revelation may be a foregone conclusion for some, those unaffected by these issues are often blind to their presence. To further elaborate on how our racial identities shape the world around us, we need only listen to Geisha’s explanation of how she ended up as a CEO.
Geisha said she had always had modest career aspirations. Certainly, she never expected to be in the position she finds herself in today. In fact, it was only at the suggestion of an industry mentor that she began to even dream of the reality “Geisha, somebody has to run this company some day. Why not you?” he had asked. Her inner feelings on the question at the time were far from positive, however, as she recalls “I thought, why not me? Is this guy kidding? Women weren’t running companies. Latina women weren’t running companies. Immigrants weren’t running companies. So I thought that was just ridiculous”
To all of our dismay, she had and still has a very good point. But her career progress eventually came to prove her original thinking wrong. Through a phenomena that she calls “the power of mentorship”, her answer to this question she was asked changed slowly, day by day. Geisha admits “It’s the power of influence and having someone that you look up to tell you that they think you can do something that you don’t think you can do yourself,” that allowed her to reach her current career heights, making history in the process.
Notice how her story vastly differs from that of many American dreamers. Instead of vying for the top from the beginning, she instead shot for modest expectations. Incapable of believing that she alone could change a system structured against her, others were required to help make this belief a possibility for her. This is the kind of difference in perspective that something as arbitrary as the color of your skin has even today, in a world that many believe has become devoid of racism. If we can manage to acknowledge this unfortunate reality, hopefully, someday, we can turn it on its head.
But, for today, we celebrate. Congratulations, Geisha, on setting the world record straight, if only for a brief moment. It is through the efforts of people like you that we can hope to forge a new dawn where frivolities like race and culture are shared instead of discriminated.
Written by: Chris Stomberg